Waterfalls on this hike:
#490 Wilderness Falls Trail
#449 – Deep Gap Trail
#486 Granny Burrell Trail
#482 Mac’s Gap Trail
#474 Panthertown Valley Trail
Panthertown Valley Hike #4 begins at the West Gate and along this hike there are three waterfalls as well as the overlook at Salt Rock Gap. In order of appearance there will be Wilderness Falls, Frolictown Falls and Granny Burrell Falls. None of them are spectacular but they all have something to offer. Wilderness Falls is in the neighborhood of 75 fete high but very hard to view due to the surroundings. Frolictown Falls is small but the location is very cool . Granny Burrell Falls isn’t very high but the long sloping rock in front as well as the sand bar island at the base make it a great place to hang out. The hike is a loop of approximately 3.2 miles that involves 5 trails so you need to have your map and pay attention.
To reach the West Gate Salt Rock Gap), from US64 in Brevard, start counting the miles when you get to the split where NC281 branches to the right. Stay on US64 for another 8 miles, passing over Toxaway Falls along the way. Turn right on Cedar Creek Road and remain on this for 2.3 miles. Turn right onto Breedlove Road. The parking area for the West Gate is at the end of Breedlove Road shortly after it turns to a gravel Road. The hike begins at the information Kiosk near the gate. This is the Panthertown Valley Trail. Follow this down the gently sloping grade for roughly 10 minutes at a moderate walking pace. Keep an eye out on the right for a carsonite sign for the Wilderness Falls Trail. Take this trail.
The trail is mostly downhill and easy to follow as it zigzags down deeper into the valley. The trail was in good shape as of September of 2015 although the sections near wilderness falls leave something to be desired. The trail will take you through a sharp right hand switchback after about 0.4 of a mile before starting on a long sweeping right hand bend along the flank of the hillside. You will hear the waterfall before you see it. The trail will make an abrupt left near the creek. Wilderness Falls is on your right. There is an obscenely steep scramble path down to the base of the falls but the view of the upper section of the falls is severely limited. The area down near the base is dark and mysterious, making for an excellent photo op. The upper section will be washed out since it is getting full sun.
Climb back up and continue along Wilderness Falls Trail. After passing the waterfall the trail levels out and follows the creek. About 1.2 miles from where the hike began the trail will dead end into the Deep Gap Trail. make a right toward Frolictown Creek but don’t cross the creek. Just before reaching the creek you will see a trail entering the woods on the left. There are two trails, one is steep and deadly and the other is sedate. Opt for the safer route down. There is a small sandy area to the right of the falls. To get the best shot of Frolictown Falls, you need to be on the back on the opposite side of the creek. The waterfall isn’t very big but the location is cool and private.
Return to the #449 – Deep Gap Trail and make a right so as not to cross the creek. The trail will ascend moderately for a time before coming to a fork. The Deep Gap Trail will continue up and to the left while the #486 – Granny Burrell Trail will go down and to the right. Bear to the right. This section of the hike is relatively flat and the trail is in good condition. About 0.5 of a mile after switching to the Granny Burrell Trail, the trail will come to a bridge over the creek. Just across the bridge the trail intersects with the Great Wall Trail. Stay to the left, remaining on the Granny Burrell Trail. About 0.3 of a mile from the bridge, a small trail will go to the left onto the bedrock at the base of Granny Burrell Falls. The rock runs the length of the falls and eventually leads to a shallow crossing that provides access to a sandy island at the base of the chute. The island makes a great spot to shoot the falls, as does the flat stone area closer to the primary drop. Again, not a huge waterfall but the setting is very picturesque.
The same trail that led you onto the rock will lead you back into the woods. make a left and continue on the Granny Burrell Trail until it intersects with the #482 – Mac’s Gap Trail. Stay to the left. The trail will enter a section of pine forest that is very cool. The ground is mostly level during this stretch but that’s about to change. The next major intersection you come to will be with the #474 – Panthertown Valley Trail. Make a left onto the Panthertown Valley Trail. You are now 1.0 miles from your car and it is all uphill. The trail will intersect with the #449 – Deep Gap Trail. At this intersection make a right, remaining on the #474 – Panthertown Valley Trail. The trail will get steeper at this point as it works its way toward the Salt Rock Gap Overlook. You can get a great view of Pantertown Valley from the overlook. Directly ahead of you, just in front of the closest peak, you can see the pine forest you walked through earlier in the hike. From Salt Rock Gap, the trail passes the Wilderness Falls Trail where the adventure began. At the top of the hill is the parking area.